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The #FreeAJStaff Campaign Continues As Egypt Cracks Down In Court
March 25, 2014
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Journalist Mohamed Fahmy in an Egyptian court on Monday. (Photo: REUTERS/Al Youm Al Saabi Newspaper)

Detained Canadian-Egyptian journalist Mohamed Fahmy, along with Australian Peter Greste and Egyptian Baher Mohamed, was back in court in Egypt on Monday. Fahmy, Greste and Mohamed, all of whom work for Al Jazeera,  are three of 20 journalists who have been charged by Egyptian authorities with endangering national security and publishing stories in service of the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Egyptian political party of former president Mohamed Morsi.

Over the weekend, acting President of Egypt Adly Mansour expressed his intentions to ensure a fair and speedy trial.

In a letter to Fahmy's family, Mansour wrote, "I want to reaffirm in this regard the independence of the Egyptian judiciary and my confidence that your son will get all his legal rights. This will not stop me from exerting every effort necessary and possible to reach a fast resolution to this case, that guarantees justice in line with the law."

In another encouraging sign, Fahmy was also finally taken to a hospital to get scans of his injured shoulder — an injury he has been nursing without proper care for months. 

Much of the trial on Monday focused on the journalists' posession of video and editing equipment, all related to their jobs as journalists at a television news network. “The discussion of montages clearly demonstrates they don’t understand what we do,” Fahmy told reporters in the courtroom.

The trial comes after another court case in Egypt went to trial, during which 529 people were sentenced to death for their alleged participation in an attack against police in the city of Minya in August 2013. The event took place just after the Muslim Brotherhood government was forced out of power. One of the charges levelled was for belonging to or supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, a party that is currently banned in Egypt. 

And today, Egypt held another mass trial, accusing 683 people — all members of the Muslim Brotherhood — of murder and inciting violence during the protest in Minya. The current leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie, was one of the people on trial. Only 68 of the accused were in court, the rest were tried in absentia. Defense lawyers were also absent, as they were boycotting the proceedings. The presiding judge Said Youssef said he will announce a verdict on April 28. 

Despite the bad news coming out of Egypt, the fight to release the detained Al Jazeera journalists is still going strong. A new video was released by Al Jazeera over the weekend, featuring a slew of top-name journalists lending their support to the cause. You can watch the full video, which features the #FreeAJStaff hashtag that has been used in global protests for the past three months, below:

All of this news comes, fittingly, on the UN-sanctioned International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members. The day is observed on the anniversary of the abduction of Alec Collett, a journalist and United Nations staffer who was abducted in the Middle East in 1985. 

In a statement about the day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said this: "On this and every day, let us honour the courage and dedication of all United Nations colleagues who risk so much to help those less fortunate. They should never be asked to sacrifice their liberty or lives for these noble ends."

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